Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor blew £20,000 on business and first-class flights last year, despite receiving a pay rise of an undisclosed amount.
Professor Colin Riordan was the best paid Vice-Chancellor in Wales for 2013-2014, earning a reputed £271,000 and yet amassed a £19,996.66 bill for premium-seat flights.
A study by the University and College Union (UCU) has also revealed that seven out of eight of Wales’ vice-chancellors received a pay packet exceeding £200,000, five of which received pay rises.
An average salary rise of 5.1 per cent for UK vice-chancellors caused walkouts last year among UCU members amidst staff cuts. Sally Hunt, general secretary for UCU, said: “Many staff and students will be amazed at the size of vice-chancellors’ salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses.
“That this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.
In response to revelations about Riordan’s air fare spending, a Cardiff University spokesperson commented: “As head of Wales’s leading research intensive University it is vital our Vice-Chancellor represents the University at major meetings in Wales, the UK and internationally. This often requires extensive international travel to establish new research collaborations, attract students and put Wales on the global map.
“The spend on travel has to be put into context with the overall impact that Cardiff University and its global presence has on the wider Welsh economy.
The spokesperson continued to defend Riordan’s expenditure, adding: “In 2013/2014 1 per cent of all Welsh employment and over 1 per cent of Welsh GVA was generated by Cardiff University.
Overall the University, together with our international students and students from the rest of the UK, generated some 13,000 jobs in Wales.”
The spokesperson was also eager to clarify that Riordan’s pay rise was a ‘sector-wide increase and does not relate to Cardiff University.’
Revelations about Riordan’s air fare comes just months after public criticism over his expenses claims, which included taxi fares, hotel stays and hospitality bills.